Beginnings and ends with My Dying Bride’s Evinta
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Given my upcoming departure from immersive involvement in metal, I've been obsessed with what metal musicians do after they stop playing the music. We're getting to a point in metal's history where obituaries are sadly becoming more frequent. Metal is a life for many, or at least a parallel one to the "real" one. Like with occupations in real life, musicians retire from metal. Perhaps they find it financially or physically unsustainable. Perhaps they just tire of it.
It's interesting to see what music they pursue afterwards. Sometimes it's a headscratcher, like Ig(g)or Cavalera's electro-pop. But often it makes sense - it's music that's influenced metal, and the musician seeks the pure original. So Bill Steer plays '70s rock, Jeff Young plays classical/flamenco guitar, Aaron Turner pursues ambient drones, and a whole host of musicians play what I call "dark Americana": Dax Riggs, Steve Von Till, Scott Kelly, Dwid Hellion, M. Gira. The chops or atmosphere remains, but the setting mellows.
Orchestral music is another possibility, given metal's affinity with classical music. But this field is fraught with danger, as few metal musicians are compositionally trained; also, shredding minor scales hardly equals "classical music". Hence disasters like Dimmu Borgir or Metallica's S&M. The string quartet renditions I've heard of metal (Slayer, Iron Maiden, etc.) haven't been compelling, either. Usually the revelation is that sound (electricity, volume) is an irreplaceable part of metal, or that the compositions don't hold up in alternate settings.
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But My Dying Bride's new album Evinta interests me. What I've heard indicates it has no metal. (Bafflingly, the promo I got was just three excerpts. If I'm supposed to review the album based on them, I won't.) Instead, it's two discs (three with the deluxe edition) of 20 years of My Dying Bride themes worked into orchestral settings. This isn't "let's play metal songs with violins" or "let's glue an orchestra on top of a metal band". It's an organic creation using material abstracted from metal.
I'm not familiar enough with My Dying Bride to know if this is a good idea. Some bands use rich tonalities that suggest success in orchestral settings. Later Gorguts or later Deathspell Omega might make for good modern classical music. I could see the Kronos Quartet playing Dysrhythmia. But as godfathers of melodic doom metal, My Dying Bride don't strike me as being particularly tonally adventurous. I could be wrong. (Those who know, please enlighten me.)
You can hear an excerpt from Evinta below, and also here. The other excerpts I've heard aren't too different, though one features a percolating synth that reminds me of Philip Glass and ambient IDM. So maybe the template isn't strict, which makes the project even more interesting.
The below excerpt features French opera soprano Lucie Roche (CV here and here). I'm no critic of opera singers or orchestral music; I don't have enough knowledge. Is this music good? That's an odd question for me to ask when I've answered it for years in my limited metal context. To my untrained ear, this sounds like typical soundtrack-level orchestral music: pleasant, not terribly exciting, complete with cheesy voiceover. (Of course, terrifying, exciting soundtrack music exists, but it seems to be the exception to the rule.)
I sort of like not knowing if this is good - at least for now. That means I have unexplored territory ahead. Maybe that's how musicians feel when they retire from metal. The "Long Walk" in Judge Dredd comes to mind. If "metal is the law", perhaps there comes a time when one must leave the community walls and walk alone. True, the mission of the Long Walk includes "bringing law to the lawless". Maybe that's evangelical or paternalistic; I prefer to think of it as leading by example. At some point, the denim and patches and chest-beating fall away. What's left is the human. Making the most of it - that, to me, is metal.
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"Vanité Triomphante" (excerpt)
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